Opponents rally against ‘religious liberty’ bills in Georgia

Opponents of so-called "religious liberty" legislation in Georgia rallied Tuesday at the state Capitol, just hours before two of the bills were set for key votes in the state House Judiciary Committee.

“We are here to turn up the heat on this very chilly day,” said Jeff Graham, the executive director of LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality, speaking to a midday crowd of about 200 people as snow flurries swirled in the air. “These bills are bad for Georgia.”

The rally followed a move Monday by state House leaders to block a bid to add civil rights protections to gay, lesbian and transgender Georgians to one of the two bills going before the Judiciary Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

House Bill 849 as written would make Georgia law mirror federal statutes to protect Georgians against discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations based on race, color, religion or natural origin.

The other bill is House Bill 757. Known as the "Pastor Protection Act," it would write into state law that a religious person is not required to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. Lawmakers have agreed to consider amendments to the bill that would address concerns about the legislation affecting a person's access to housing.